I Will Not Compare Myself To Other Developers

Today, let’s do a little exercise. It won’t hurt… I promise. In fact, it might feel really good. Cathartic, even.

Repeat after me: I will not compare myself to other developers.

I don’t know why it is that I always do this, but it’s become my mantra not to. Simple, right? Much easier said than done. Comparing ourselves to other folks is generally accepted as natural behavior, as we are community- and socially-oriented creatures. Even myself, as a pretty bad hermit and introvert. But when is enough enough? When are we ever enough? My answer to this is: it’s never going to be enough, but we are enough right as we are, right now.

True confessions: I’m a noob, and that’s okay

Today marks 92 days since I first launched this crazy endeavor to change my industry/career, and pick up some valuable skills that would carry me forward into a more personally rewarding profession overall. Ninety-two days. For the mathematically challenged, that’s a little over 13 weeks. Given 13 weeks, what could you do?

As I’ve mentioned in my origin story, back at the end of May, I was let go from my position as a Customer Care Manager at a software-as-a-service (SaaS) start-up here in Portland. Being in that role, I had a lot of exposure to the deployed product, but not to the development process. And being in an entirely separate office from the Development and Product teams, I was largely unable to peek over anyone’s shoulder to see what they were working on. However, that didn’t keep me from asking questions where I could.

Sometimes, I didn’t know what I was really asking, and being largely unfamiliar with mobile app development… I didn’t get the answers I was looking for, if I got any answers at all. Sometimes, I found myself on The Google searching for terms that kept coming up. My first exposure to the Agile term “sprint” was in an email from a Lead Developer, providing a summary of the week’s projects. And what the @$&! was a “rescue blob”? More asking, more Googling. Over time, it became more familiar to me, and I realized how largely removed I was from the entire development process. I was a little jealous of my coding counterparts, and determined to step up my game.

Back to the start, repeat after me: I will not compare myself to other web developers. That pang of jealousy I felt knowing that they a) made more money than I did, and b) were facing challenges that seemed like a lot more fun to me than what I was doing… it wasn’t necessary. Everyone starts somewhere. Each and every developer at our company — and every other company — once wrote their first line of code.

When I started writing my own code, pouring through Treehouse classes and pining for the same level of knowledge that “everyone else” in the industry had… I had to check myself. Obsessively following other developers is a perfectly awesome and legit activity, but whining to myself about why I couldn’t do what they did in their GitHub repos and on their portfolios is asinine and self-destructive.

In short…

Reviewing the work of others, and taking their experience and using it as a most excellent example of what we can do, given time and the proper environment? YES.

Reviewing the work of others, and self-deprecating because we simply don’t have the same skill sets yet? NO.

Imposter Syndrome and the single woman

The negative effects of constantly comparing ourselves and our skills to those of other developers don’t just end there. Allow me a personal anecdote.

Pretty quickly after I began my progress, I started meeting and dating developers and engineers in different fields. The feelings I had for what they did sometimes overshadowed my feelings for them. Over dinner or drinks, I tried to explain what I was doing, and was generally met with approval and respect for my ambition! But in my own mind, I was again comparing myself to them. My code was messy and novice, and theirs looked great.

What’s the term… “imposter syndrome”? That feeling that you’re misrepresenting yourself in some way, or underqualified for what you’re doing/who you’re with. I don’t have time for it. They have had years of experience behind them to create and learn, and I have my 92 days. I am strong, and I learn incredibly quickly. When I stumble, I pick myself back up. I have a plethora of great ideas that will, one way or another, come to fruition once I gain the skills to make it happen.

Feeling swelling drive for web development, and wanting to learn more/do better affirms for me that I am in the right field, and that I’m going to do just fine. Imagine what I’ll be able to do by my 100th day. It’s only 8 days away, but based on my rate of progression, that’s only a little under 1/10th of my time already passed. 1/10th of what I’ve learned so far is still a pretty ridiculous amount! And what about my 6-month mark? One year?

I have 92 days under my belt. And I will not compare myself to other developers.